CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON - Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The United States hold their World Cup destiny in their hands on Wednesday when they square off with a resilient Algerian squad at Pretoria's Loftus Versfeld Stadium in a first-ever encounter.
A win will guarantee the US a berth in the Round of 16, a feat only achieved in recent World Cups in 1994 and 2002.
With the US and England having both drawn their opening two games, the Yanks have a slight edge on the Three Lions on goals scored, and can claim first spot in the group with a win by a margin equal or greater than that of England's in their match versus Slovenia.
Bob Bradley's men enter the game with confidence following their superb second half comeback in their last outing against the Slovenians that ended 2-2.
With their backs against the wall at halftime, and a two-goal deficit and possible elimination staring them down, the Americans orchestrated a pair of goals courtesy of Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley, only to have a third from Maurice Edu disallowed in a controversial decision by referee Koman Coulibaly.
Another dubious decision from the Malian whistle-blower saw starting forward Robbie Findley receive his second yellow card of the tournament, meaning the Real Salt Lake striker will not be available for Wednesday's game.
Bradley may look to Edson Buddle to pair up top with Jozy Altidore, or shift Clint Dempsey up from the right flank.
With several options in the midfield, Bradley could start the formation of Donovan, Edu, Bradley and Benny Feilhaber that featured in the successful second half of the Slovenia game.
Jose Francisco Torres and DaMarcus Beasley, who will recognize Rangers teammate and Algerian defender Madjid Bougherra, could also see action as substitutes.
The US defense looks to remain unchanged with Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Jay Demerit and Steve Cherundolo forming the backline, and Tim Howard minding the net.
Algeria enters the game with a well-earned point picked up against England last Friday in rainy Cape Town.
Coach Rabah Saadane's squad will, without a doubt, be looking for a win to potentially secure their first ever entry into the knock-out stage.
A previous appearance in the World Cup in 1982 ended on a sour note after West Germany and Austria intentionally played to 1-0 result, thus eliminating the Algerians. In their other appearance in the finals in 1986 in Mexico, the Algerians failed to exit the group stage.
Suffering a scoring drought and thirsty for goals, the Desert Foxes will rely on Karim Ziani and Karim Matmour to spark the attack.
The equally potent Siena striker Abdeelkader Ghezzal makes a return from suspension after picking up a red card in the first game against Slovenia for a blatant handball.
Saadane's midfield and defensive formation from the England game looks unchanged with no major injuries to worry about. Following Faouzi Chaouchi's blunder that allowed Slovenia to take the lead in the first game, Saadane may stick with backup goalkeeper Rais M'bohi, who recorded a shutout against England.
Loftus Versfeld will be the third stadium to be revisited for the US following their campaign last year through the Confederations Cup.
The Americans opened the tournament with a 3-1 loss to Italy at Loftus Versfeld and succumbed to a powerful Brazilian squad 3-0 three days later at the same location.
A Belgian trio of referees led by Frank De Bleeckere will officiate the first meeting between the two nations in international competition.